After a soft opening almost a month ago, Flatiron newcomer Kat & Theo (5 West 21st Street; 212-380-1950) is finding its feet. “We’re ironing out kinks,” chef Paras Shah tells the Voice, “and we’re getting busier, which is exciting but also daunting.”
The restaurant’s dramatically lit room features archways of light cocooning booth tables, as well as a more informal bar area at the front that looks out onto 21st Street. The space looks built for secret liaisons, milestone birthday parties, and the odd business dinner. And though the kitchen is still finding its stride, it’s one to watch. Shah trained at El Bulli in Spain and cooked at Per Se and Momofuku Noodle Bar, while pastry chef Serena Chow is an alum of Eleven Madison Park and Pearl & Ash.
“This is food that takes pride in local ingredients and local ways of cooking,” Shah says. “We don’t do any sous-vide, nothing really molecular — it’s more ‘Here’s the product, let’s make the flavors shine and complement one another as a full bite.’ ”
Though Shah describes the menu as “Mediterranean in spirit,” Spanish influences shine through, especially when it comes to seafood, which makes up a good proportion of the offerings. Check out mackerel with vinegar, adorned with chive flowers and orange-infused salt, and octopus with a smoked-potato purée.
“I want to cook accessible food that’s also elegant,” Shah says. “Not highfalutin, but really good. Maybe slightly thought-provoking, but basically, I grew up in Queens, and I want my friends to come here and feel at home. This should be real food, real cooking, but not taken too seriously.”